And to the same end was it provided and ordained by the first General Assembly that “if any person shall abuse or deride another for his different persuasion or practice in religion, such shall be looked upon as disturbers of the peace, and be punished accordingly.” And in the line of the same wholesome and necessary policy it was also further provided and ordained that “all such offences against God as swearing, cursing, lying, profane talking, drunkenness, obscene words, revels, etc. etc., which excite the people to rudeness, cruelty, and irreligion, shall be respectively discouraged and severely punished.”
Such were the good and righteous provisions made for the restraint of the licentiousness and brutishness of man in the primeval days of our commonwealth; and wherein it has since sunk away from these original organic laws the people have only weakened and degraded themselves, and hindered that virtuous and happy prosperity which would otherwise in far larger degree than now be our inheritance.
FORMS OF GOVERNMENT.
V. And yet again, as the fathers of our commonwealth gave us religion without compulsion, so they also gave us a State without a king.
There is nothing necessarily wrong or necessarily right in this particular. Monarchy, aristocracy, republicanism, or pure democracy cannot claim divine right the one over against the other. Either may be good, or either may be bad, as the situation and the chances may be. There has been as much bloody wrong and ruin wrought in the name of liberty as in the establishment of thrones. There have been as good and happy governments by kings as by any other methods of human administration. Civil authority is essential to man, and the power for it must lie somewhere. The only question is as to the safest depository of it. The mere form of the government is no great matter. It has been justly said, “There is hardly a government in the world so ill designed that in good hands would not do well enough, nor any so good that in ill hands can do aught great and good.” Governments depend on men, not men on governments. Let men be good, and the government will not be bad; but if men are bad, no government will hold for good. If government be bad, good men will cure it; and if the government be good, bad men will warp and spoil it. Nor is there any form of government known to man that is not liable to abuse, prostitution, tyranny, unrighteousness, and oppression.
The best government is that which most efficiently conserves the true ends of government, be the form what it may. Anything differing from this is worthless sentimentalism, undeserving of sober regard. And to meet the true ends of government there must be power to enforce obedience, and there must be checks upon that power to secure its subjects against its abuse; for “liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery.” But there may be liberty under monarchy, as well as reverence and obedience under democracy, whilst there may be oppression and bloody tyranny under either.